Saying Yes To Housing

By John Swartz

A couple dozen representatives from area social agencies, members of Orillia council and staff raised a flag at City Hall on Tuesday in support of a movement called Yes In My Back Yard.

The acronym, YIMBY is the answer to those collectively called NIMBY’s (which stand for not in my back yard). The flag raising marked the beginning of the 2nd annual NIMBY Week in Orillia.

“The point is to offer positive and tangible solutions to the housing crisis; more transitional, supportive  housing, more rent geared to income units, more rental subsidies, more student housing, more housing to meet everybody’s unique needs. And we don’t want any housing developments to get held up by a few loud voices that say, “no, not in my back yard.” We really want to create that welcoming in the whole community,” said Paige Jakobczak who coordinated the event and is also the fundraising coordinator for Couchiching Jubilee House.

Housing intensification is also a concept voiced by some YIIMBYs at times, which when one looks around Orillia it could be determined there are not too many places denser housing can be created. To some, that means constructing something in neigbourhoods with existing single family houses.

“We definitely don’t advocate tearing down any neighbourhoods. We definitely advocate for infill as part of a strategy to accommodate for the mandated growth we are seeing. I think there’s opportunities in every neighbourhood. Second suites, and tiny homes is a really good opportunity, so it doesn’t have to be scary the way some people think it is,” said Jakobczak.

People without housing are more visible on our streets than it ever has been. One could argue policy by higher levels of government regarding mental health, addictions, diminished support for those who can’t work, an out of control rental market and a growing wages verses cost of living disparity are dumping housing issues on communities.

Mayor Don McIsaac gives Paige Jakobczak the official proclamation.

“We can advocate. We talk to Jill Dunlop, we talk to Adam Chambers and we advocate our position and say, “Hey, we’ve got these issues, let’s deal with them.”  We do whatever we can. I don’t know what the solution is. If there’s a silver bullet it would have been tried long ago,” said Mayor Don McIsaac. 

Municipalities also don’t have the funding to deal as effectively with a growing problem. Where will the money come from?

“They are our people. We need to help. We do what we can. And what we can do is understand what other communities are doing and understand the province and the federal government’s are an ally and we can get them to help as best we can,” McIsaac said.

Several members of this council have been on record this is a priority.

“(We’re) absolutely supportive. When council met prior to being sworn in, one of the priorities we established was affordable housing all day long,” said McIsaac. “We think we’re making progress on some of the homeless issues.”

Cam Davidson

Cam Davidson has been involved with a few housing projects and is currently the chair of the City’s affordable housing committee. The issue boils down to a simple equation from his perspective.

“This is about homelessness. If you have affordable housing you don’t have homelessness,” said Davidson. “We have to figure out what type of housing we’re going to build for the people that need it.”

But don’t we have enough data after all this time to get moving on building housing?

“There was enough data 20 years ago. The problem is you had a pandemic between now and then and the pandemic exacerbated the whole thing,” Davidson said.

Representatives from the Lighthouse, the Lakehead University Student Union and other groups who have a stake in housing participated. For Couchiching Jubilee House, which provides housing and counselling for women and their children, their mission is held back by funding and available housing stock.

“The reason we advocate for affordable housing is because we’re seeing the wait list on the Simcoe County subsidized housing wait list at seven years and we’re provincially mandate to keep people housed for four,” said Jakobczak. That means people who qualify for Couchiching Jubilee House’s services are forecast to be next in line in 7 years, but the people currently involved in the program may be not moving on and out for four years. Other agencies face the same predicament, though maybe don’t have such a great a temporary housing term those they help can be involved.

It was also the first public event for Orillia’s new housing coordinator, Janette McGee who started work on Monday.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: The 2nd Annual YIMBY Week in Orillia officially kicked off Tuesday.


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